Nothing can prepare you for the destruction you’ll witness when you drive over a hill and your eyes first gaze upon the war zone a powerful tornado has carved out.
Not even the realistic action-packed film “Twister”—which kept me on the edge of my seat as massive, howling tornadoes pulverized vast swaths of the Oklahoma countryside—is enough preparation. In the DVD special feature section, the narrator said, “To witness a tornado is a spectacular site; to live through its wake is another story.”
But as hard as the director, actors, cinematographers and special effect wizards tried, “Twister” was still Hollywood.
I recently traveled to Texas and Mississippi, where Samaritan’s Purse staff members and volunteers were coming alongside distressed homeowners who had experienced firsthand the powerful Christmas holiday tornadoes that ravaged their communities and destroyed their property. These homeowners graciously shared their miraculous, real survival stories.
One was from Malvin Davis, who had lived in his Glenn Heights, Texas, home for 18 years. While his 7-year-old daughter, Makia, and his niece Mary were playing in an adjacent room, Malvin was glued to his TV, watching the news. According to on-air reports, the storm system had apparently passed by and was heading to the northeast.
Then the lights flickered on and off. The kids grew scared and quizzed Malvin about what was happening. Based on what the newscaster had said, he assured the girls everything was fine. The lights went off again. Even though no sirens had been triggered, Malvin knew something was amiss.
Malvin told Makia and Mary they should all head to the interior bathroom. As soon as they stepped into the room, the air pressure within the house sucked in and then blew outward. The house exploded, catapulting the three into the bathtub. Malvin had the presence of mind to cover the girls with his body, shielding them from flying glass and debris. Glass shards ripped into Malvin’s exposed right leg. They screamed as the tornado ripped apart the house. Then it was silent.
An across-the-street neighbor, whose house was minimally damaged, rushed over. He met a dazed Malvin as he was walking through what was his kitchen, now demolished. His neighbor invited the three to come stay with him. Malvin eventually needed 14 stiches to patch up his leg wound.
The next week, a half-dozen Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were on the scene, helping Malvin and other members of his family, along with a good friend, retrieve salvageable personal belongings and clean up his property.
“I’m a single dad and needed help, and I’m overwhelmed that so many people would come assist me,” Malvin said. “I had never heard of Samaritan’s Purse, but it’s been a blessing to be surrounded by such good people.”
That kind of response from appreciative homeowners is gratifying to hear—and was repeated again and again throughout the Greater Dallas Area, as well as in northern Mississippi.
Whatever the disaster, our volunteers, moved by the Spirit, come selflessly from across the country to serve in Jesus’ Name.
On New Year’s Day, I met Amanda Wyatt, from Garland, Texas, which had especially been hit hard. Her parents’ home had escaped damage. Here she was with her dad, David Wyatt, investing her time modeling the example of the Good Samaritan.
“This is close to home, and seeing what people are going through really touched my heart,” Amanda said. “It feels good to be out helping our neighbors. And it feels good to be here with my father.”
David agreed. “We had the time to be here together,” he said. “It’s been a blessing to serve and to love on these folks.”
Lynn Duyck, the women’s track coach at Garland High School for the past 35 years, was also volunteering that cold, blustery morning. She was there with her husband, Lyle.
“I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to be helping other people on the first day of a new year,” she said.
“When we had this opportunity, we wanted to seize it,” Lyle added. “The physical work we’re doing is important, but an even greater privilege is to tell them about Jesus Christ and what He has done in our own lives and what He can do in theirs. Once you’ve seen that, you just want to keep on going!”
No matter the disaster and no matter where, that simple message rings true.